for June 22nd, 2016….
You came into our lives, and broke all rules. With your elder sisters I was a strict mom, but with you, it didn’t work. – You had your two sisters and Papa’s support. – your grand parents’ too. Your Papa spoilt you hollow. I’m glad I never came between you two. How was I to know, he had little time left, that he had to fulfill his lifetime wishes for you within these few years? You and your Papa had such a cute relationship. Once, at age six, you went with him to get his birthday gifts for him – he had to pay!
Your curly top was your identity. On your fourth birthday, your Papa got two black frames made of pics of you and family one for each of us, since we share the birthday. His interest in photography was always there. He loved taking photographs, and I would arrange them in albums. Our home was full of photographs, albums and paintings. You were surrounded with art. Wherever we went, our camera went with us. Every happy moment was caught on camera.
We never slowed the pace of our lives because of you. We just added you to all that we did. Our picnics, outings, my writings, teaching (after you joined school) and travels continued in full swing. Life in the Air Force, keeps it that way too. You would be the darling of whichever neighborhood we lived in. Wherever I went, people seemed to know you.
When you were just three, my friend Seema got a special ‘pata-pati gharara’ made for you. Every morning, you would put it on. Then go running to the end of the street or climb the gate, or whatever else you had plans to do. Nataliya would be shocked!
I was a computer teacher, in a school in Karachi, when I started expecting you. I left the job, to give you time. So, I started my job again when you were to join PAF Montessori, Sargodha, at age three. At the school gate, we would say ‘bye’ to each other as Mum and daughter. I had asked the administration to not put you in my class. They also allowed me to go twice a week to the Special School nearby, to teach art to the children there. One day, as I went to the Principals’ office, we realized, we had got bolted in! We could see a curly top outside, who had slid the bolt in. The Principal and I couldn’t help hoping, no parent comes to witness this embarrassing scene! That the principal and a teacher has been locked in by a three-year-old student! From outside you were saying loudly “Will you go to the special school again?”
That was the end of that!
Another day, I was teaching in the Yellow class, when Mrs. Rubi Zafar- the principal walked in, holding your hand. Her eyebrows going up in helplessness, saying “Shireen, I think you have another student!” You were determined to get your own way. You were so good in extra-curricular activities too, really good in sports. At four years, when you received the cup for racing, you lifted the lid, and was surprised there were no sweets inside! You could sprout out Allama Iqbal’s poetry of the ‘Bulbul and the firefly.’ I had taught this poem to the whole class, and you were very good at it. In school you were good in studies till grade three, in Connoisseur Grammar School Sargodha.
You had changed eighteen schools by the time you reached A levels. In most schools, you were up to pranks. You were always, full of life, friends and mischief, I was often called by the administration, sometimes with complaints. I’d tell them not to spare you, if you deserved punishment they, must go ahead with it. It would sometimes end with them defending you! When there was a parent-teacher meeting, you would conveniently forget to inform me till the last minute. When I’d be furious, you would look at me innocently, and ask “Do you honestly want to go?” I’d often shake my head! My life was hectic enough without having to listen to all those complaints.
You became the pet of your Islamiat teacher in Bahria School, Islamabad, in grade six. Your ‘Talawat’ was very good, so you would often be asked to recite the verses from Holy Quran during assembly.
On top of it, just before A level exams, I took you off to Seattle. The Roots School, Principal was shocked, (it was just two months before A level final exams.) I told her, that on one side is my daughter, and on the other side is my daughter too, I can’t leave any of them. My husband was busy building the house, so he couldn’t join us. Anyhow, I took full responsibility. Nadiya joined us in Seattle from England, and she taught you your subjects. It was a great time for all of us. In Seattle, I took over the kitchen, and you Waliya, took over the cleaning and washing chores, of rest of the house. You did these in a very responsible way. At the same time, you prepared for your exams.
On our return to Islamabad, we were so excited about our trip. It seemed that no one was much interested to hear our tales. We realized that things are not too good. The house project seemed to have come to a stand-still. After the exams, you decided to take a break from studies for a year. Meanwhile, life carried on … Your Papa got you an expensive camera as a gift. That started you out as a photographer, but only as a hobby. I realized that your pictures were so good, that when you accompanied me for an interview for my column in Dawn newspaper, I would ask you to take the picture of the personality. Soon Dawn asked you to take photographs for them too. Nageen Hyat of Nomad Art Gallery, says that your photograph of hers was the best one ever taken. Many of your photos were later printed in my book published in USA, in 2013.
It was in October 2011, when suddenly, your love for photography mushroomed, and you made your page on Facebook.
Both your sisters were abroad, and us living in Islamabad, when suddenly your Papa was diagnosed with cancer in November 2011. Waliya, I remember that nightmarish evening, when I had gone alone to Rawalpindi, and the doctor informed us about the cancer. I said my Maghrib and Isha prayer and drove back in a daze. I wondered whether to tell you or not. But realized, I had to share this heartbreaking news with you. You were so amazingly brave. As I just crumbled with grief and guilt for not knowing earlier, you are the one who shook me into reality. You made me realize that how could I have known symptoms of something we have never heard of? You became my pillar of strength. In the next few months, as literally the ground from under our feet started slipping, you were my anchor. We both became a force to fight for Papa’s life, our home and possessions. As we both realized the cruelty of very near relatives, we also accepted the generosity of our loved ones and strangers. You were like my right hand at all times. I could safely leave you with your Papa in hospital, so I could go and handle the multiple issues all over the twin-cities. I had taken over the construction of the house too.
“Did you ever for once believe, that I wouldn’t be able to make it?” I asked you one day.
“No, not once!” was your prompt reply. Your faith in me, your complete trust and support in whatever I did was my strength. I just had to mention something, and knew you will do it. You are very sharp and very intelligent.
You are the one who taught me to laugh at ‘bad people’ on their faces. (I used to cry…) I tried, it and found it works far better than all that weeping. It certainly floors your enemies.
You would read out Ayat ul kursi and other prayers, as I would be driving at all odd hours. You were the one who would bring me back from the brink of crying. (- you still are an expert at that!). However, we were both at the edge of our nerves, by the time your sisters arrived and took things over. Alhamdolillah.
Somehow, we all dressed well through it all, and appeared our ‘normal’ selves, so that your Papa feels that things are normal. We laughed at silly things, we made jokes and digs at each other. We created a ‘happy’ environment in front of your Papa, so that he can heal well. We also, made a pact between ourselves, to not discuss unpleasant facts after five pm.
You made sure we stuck to it.
Recently, Sungho asked me, “During tough times, you were brave. Do you think, your daughters, would be as brave?”
“Yes,” I answered. “I know, my girls would be very brave and courageous.” I know you are fearless, strong, clear headed and very intelligent, just like your other two sisters, Nataliya and Nadiya, – even though you are the youngest. Yet, we know, you have seen the most, in your young life.
Your Papa had made you an expert driver by the age of twelve. You can cook up a tasty meal, or clean up a place or pay the bills, or get the car done up at the mechanics, or look after elderly grandparents and keep them very happy. All these talents and so many more are part of your nature.
You can also ‘chill out’ very well. You have a knack for fun and frolic. Your photography is awesome, because it comes straight from your heart. You are so good at expressing the pain, joy, charm or even horror of living in your photography. You can create beauty and spark in a moment. Your computer expertise is natural, after all, your father was one of the best computer experts of the country. How could he not have a ‘techno’ daughter?
A short spell in Hunarkada, and a photography course there in Photography, made me realize that neither my finances, nor your interest nor any institution was ready to teach you right now, not for your needs. You had already become way ahead of others in the field. There was no place ready for a photographer of your caliber to go for further studies. I offered you a degree in a London based university, in Islamabad. The English Principal was kind enough to offer very attractive package. So, I got excited too, though I wasn’t sure how I’d manage the funding of it all. You said, “During my two years here, I’ll have to give up my photography. After completion of studies, I’ll be trying to start my business all over again. Why should I give up a running business?” That made a lot of sense. I was teaching about Shakespear to my students in Sheikh Zayed International Academy in those days. You know, he left school at the age of 15 years? Got married to a 24 year old girl at 18, and lived happily ever after. So, that did it. Look at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, just look at them! So, I decided, that for now, I’d back you up.
You were probably still nineteen when you were invited to conduct a workshop on photography at Ghulam Ishaq Khan University, for their students. I’m sure all the ‘students’ were older than you. With great confidence you conducted your multi-media presentation and answered the technical questions of the would-be photographers. You have been interviewed by the media for your photography several times. Your workshops on photography are very popular in Islamabad. You have people coming from USA, Lahore and other cities to be photographed by you, today. You are also very popular among models and film stars for their shoots by you. Mawra and Urwa Husain are two recent ones. Designers love you to take photographs of their latest line of clothes. Your demand is increasing by the day. Rimmel and other great photographers on the scene all are looking at your work also. There is a mutual admiration.
Today, you earn more in two to three days, than I could dream of earning in a month! I’m so proud of you because, this fame and fortune hasn’t gone to your head. You are the same, (because I treat you the same too!)
I love your grip of any situation or discussion. When all ‘grownups’ are talking, you listen in and when you speak, you can shake everyone up by one sentence of yours. – I’m so proud of you!
Yes, I’m so blessed by my Allah, for giving me such a great birthday present. Happy birthday, my Waliya, I love you. May your wishes come true, and may you have a very long, healthy, prosperous life. May it be the life you desire, with Allah’s full blessings. Ameen.